Celtics legend believes Knicks are biggest threat to to the recent champions

Apr 11, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) controls the ball while Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) defends during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics steamrolled through the playoffs, going 16-3 en route to their 18th NBA championship. The New York Knicks were just one win away from facing the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, but injuries took away the opportunity for a high-stakes matchup.

Many believed that a fully healthy Knicks team had the next best chance to claim the East from Boston in 2024. Celtics legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett thinks that New York will be Boston’s biggest challenge as they look to be a dynasty for the years to come.

“To me, the Knicks are built to challenge this Celtics team,” Garnett said on Ticket & The Truth with fellow former teammate Paul Pierce. “You got a f— point guard who’s a closer. He’s activated … if you’re a small forward he can score on you. Then you got an animal that’s been in the cage [in Julius] Randle. I’m putting my money on Randle this year.”

A fully healthy Knicks team could match up well with the Celtics

Jan 15, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) celebrates with forward Julius Randle (30) after a basket against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks struggled against the 64-win Celtics during the regular season, as they went just 1-4 against them. However, that lone win came in the only matchup to feature the new-look Knicks with OG Anunoby, a game in which Jalen Brunson scored 39 points and his team was up by 29 points entering the fourth quarter.

They were still missing Julius Randle for that contest, but the previous season would indicate that New York matches up well with Boston when they have all of their main pieces. In the 2022-23 season, the Knicks were 3-1 against the Celtics during the regular season and fell short of facing them in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Miami Heat in the second round.

Before this season, the Celtics took exception to repeatedly coming up short in the postseason and made major additions. They traded for Jrue Holiday and then added Kristaps Porzingis, both of whom were key to their massive success and eventual championship. The Knicks meanwhile, added OG Anunoby and Bojan Bogdanovic mid-season and did away with RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, which was instrumental to their success as well.

Both the Knicks and the Celtics are expected to run back their rosters from 2024

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guards Donte DiVincenzo (0) and Jalen Brunson (11) embrace after defeating the Indiana Pacers 130-121 in game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Boston is likely to retain all of their main pieces for next season, with plans to run it back for another championship run. The Knicks have a similar game plan, hoping they can bring back Anunoby and fellow free agent Isaiah Hartenstein and play a full season with a completely healthy roster in hopes that it will show championship potential.

New York is expected to also be in the mix for potential additions through the trade market, with Suns’ Devin Booker and Clippers’ Paul George among stars tabbed as potential targets for them. Even if they don’t make a massive addition to their current roster, however, they have the star talent to compete with the Celtics, they just need to maintain good health. The Knicks, as currently constructed, have a strong balance of high-level-scoring and elite-level defense, along with a head coach that emphasizes defense in Tom Thibodeau.

If both teams stay healthy next season, they could finally have their prestigious playoff matchup and the gap between the two teams in terms of talent level will become clearer.

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